BPD help
February 16, 2017 2:57 PM   Subscribe

A few teaspoons of hope would be very much appreciated.

I'm coming to the end of my tether. I don't seem to want anything anymore, other than not to be in pain emotionally. I have a BPD diagnosis and I am so tired of it. I feel worthless and inadequate half the time, I have strong emotional reactions to some things and I'm left crying and upset for hours/ days. Any time I get attached to anyone or anything it all gets complicated and emotions are high and I feel abandoned if slighted unintentionally. I rationally know all this but it doesn't help. I don't act out, just retreat and feel awful. I've done DBT and still see a therapist and occasionally psychiatrist which sometimes seems helpful. Going through the motions seems so pointless.

My family are useless (physically abusive childhood, passive mother and violent controlling intelligent father, and they are still manipulative if I let them be) so no help there. Friendships are the most important thing to me but as soon as I care about someone I can't keep my shit together and worry a lot when I haven't seen them recently and overreact to small things. I don't think I'm depressed, it's just BPD.

Other info: I'm 25, F, I've never had a relationship that's lasted more than three months or particularly wanted one. I have a master's degree and am doing a PhD, more through having fallen into them than actually making my own decisions. I couldn't care less about them for anything other than the safety they provide. I still play sport a few times a week at a highish level because that's what I've always done but I don't care about it anymore, it at least makes me socialise a bit. There's not much sunshine around here and the weather is shitty so going outside isn't that attractive. I had my thyroid checked a couple of years ago. I eat well enough, I rarely drink alcohol, and have 3-4 cups of tea or coffee a day. I get up before 9 most days.

It is worrying when everything is going fine on the surface and I still hate being alive half the time. Is there much hope that this feeling will change as I get older or as I learn to handle emotions better? Or any ideas for anything I can do to make this time a little easier?
posted by Lucy_32 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, I have several friends with BPD diagnoses in their 40s who are successful and as happy as anyone. From what I know about it, it took a whole lot of therapy in every case, but it is definitely possible. (And also fwiw, 25 sucks in general. Everyone I know was having a pretty shitty time at 25.)
posted by restless_nomad at 3:36 PM on February 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

You're in some cold grey part of the country? It's possible that you're also suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder too. Fortunately, you can get full spectrum lights that help with that. It's worth a try. Are there any enclosed botanical gardens you can visit?

Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables if you can. Spoil yourself: get massages, soak in hot tubs, whatever feels good.

I've often found that reading lightweight novels helps. They take me out of myself and put my shit on hold for a while, it's like a mini vacation of the emotions. Music is good too, and dancing to music is even better.

Yeah, 25 sucks, but here I am 40 years beyond that and glad I made it through. You will be too.

Winter will pass, you'll be able to get out more.
posted by mareli at 4:18 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

A person with borderline personality disorder can be depressed as well-- BPD is very isolating-- your important relationships fall away, you might feel guilt and shame for being how you are, people in general do not understand or sympathize with BPD--so I wouldn't write off depression as a possibility.

It's easier to put the skills you learn in DBT to use when you're not depressed and it does get easier with practice and when your life situation is more stable, so it's absolutely realistic to expect improvement.
posted by kapers at 4:56 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Age truly counts. The bpd studies that are longitudinal show that people who make it to thirty stabilize well and if they have not burned bridges, can build better adult lives. One theory I read is that the brain actually changes like a late adolescence. You've got a steady sport involvement which is a huge plus, social ties and have made it through long-term education. Those are enormous achievements that show discipline and steadiness against the tumult of bpd which is fierce, and give you extremely good odds for the next few years to much more happiness and peace.

I agree for the weather. I'm wondering also for a pet. My bpd relative thrives with dogs as unconditional affection, and you show stability and responsibility. Travel has helped a lot also, and beach trips, being near the sea and nature. You sound currently burned out and depressed more than just your bpd diagnosis - you made it to 25 in a way I would be absolutely proud of, so I think you really may need a beach break and hugs from a rescue dog who thinks you are the most amazing person ever and to talk to your doctor about a possible SAD or mild depression diagnosis.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:50 PM on February 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Seconding all of the above. Have you been treated for trauma in addition to BPD? C-PTSD can look a lot like (or exacerbate) a personality disorder, but effective treatment for it is very different. It might be a helpful framework or an additional lens through which to view your experiences, and you might respond differently to treatment focused on trauma. MeMail me for some book recommendations.

Hang in there. There is absolutely hope.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:12 PM on February 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Have your thyroid rechecked by an expert who uses the latest parameters and does an ultrasound. Have your vitamin D and iron levels checked as well. Lack of one or both can make you feel really blah. Also, caffeine may not be good for you, so can you try to cut it out for a while?

I cannot tell you anything on the BPD front other than that at times, I suspect I have it (or the above-mentioned C-PTSD) as well. My childhood wasn't always great and my family is difficult, which makes me anxious in relationships and generally a bit emotional. I have also had depression and anxiety that still comes up once in a while. Have you talked to your therapist about all of this?
posted by LoonyLovegood at 3:17 AM on February 17, 2017

Fellow BPD person here. Here's what has been working for me. YMMV.

+Force yourself to get outside for even ten minutes a day. Walk to your car and back.
+See your therapist regularly. Like weekly regularly. I've only just recently switched to monthly after a year at biweekly and prior to that two years at weekly. I'm open to the fact that it might change again.
+Talk to your Psychiatrist (and soon) about medication and/or adjustments. It took me a long time to find the right cocktail, and I constantly have to be aware of how it changes. I keep a 'feeling' journal for this purpose.
+Don't get hung up on the BPD diagnosis. This one has recently come to me. You are not a BPD. You are not BPD. You are Lucy 32, and you are allowed to have something affect you. It isn't who you are though.
+Drink lots of water.
+Do something for yourself every day.
+Find a therapist that focuses on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Huge difference over Behavioral.
You are dealing with a disorder and need to learn concepts and techniques to overcome it.
+Exercise if you can. (this one is hard for me)

Be patient and kind with yourself.

For lots of good stuff specifically related to BPD, check out DBT handouts worksheets.
posted by Draccy at 4:32 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm going to talk about DBT because it is the evidence-based therapy that's recommended for your problems and I have some personal experience here.

So you say you did DBT, but do you still do it? Did you go through the program and learn the skills but only sort of keep them in mind now? If you know the skills, but you're not really using them, they're not really doing you much good. What works about the DBT model is 1) practicing skills every single day until they become part of your unconscious habits and 2) structured support of a therapist and group.

To learn skills, try getting some worksheets and making 52 copies. Carry one around with you every day in your purse or wallet and check off the boxes every day. Pick out times during each day to practice them. This doesn't take long, you can practice mindfulness while waiting at a stoplight or brushing your teeth, you can practice distress tolerance while waiting in line at the grocery store, you can practice emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness while talking with your coworkers, but you do have to be intentional in your practice. If you need a refresher this book is quite good and you can buy a companion workbook which is literally 52 worksheets bound together.

For support, is your therapist DBT trained? Does she go through the modules with you and do exercises in therapy using your current experiences? Or are you doing talk therapy and talking a lot about the past? (Not that dealing with trauma isn't helpful, but getting through your days requires everyday skills and talk therapy won't necessarily help you practice those). Can you find a support group to meet with, or join an ongoing group therapy group (sometimes you can join an existing group if you've already taken the class)?

And finally...yes, age helps. Many many people seem to get better as they go into their thirties, for reasons having to do with brain development. It gets better.
posted by epanalepsis at 6:58 AM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this.

My mom has BPD. Due to a set of circumstances, I've been staying with my parents for a while. It's so hard to see her strugle and cycle through such intense emotions. It's like watching someone trapped in a fire, inside their own head. She suffers intensely, and acts (to outsiders) irrationally. She's also the most perceptive, generous, love-filled person I know. At the same time, she also struggles with substance addiction and carries a lot of anger and is wracked with despair and insecurity about half the time.

Since moving home, I've persuaded her to meditate with me. We use Sharon Salzberg's CD from the book Real Happiness. She has said she feels much better after meditating, and it provides an opportunity for her to sit with uncomfortable emotions in a safe space. When they feel overwhelming, we meditate on the breath, or practice Lovingkindness meditation.

Personally, I find that meditation helps me cope with major feelings of dread and anxiety, but I've also noticed positive changes in my mood. I've been meditating for about 4.5 months.

I like Salzberg's meditations because they're short and engaging. If you have 15 minutes to spare in a day, I can't think of a better way to spend them. Stick with it, and you will see results. Good luck, huh?

And as someone said above, don't get hung up on the diagnosis. I suspect my mom's BPD developed when her coping mechanisms (coping with such big feelings) began turning against her. There's so much stigma around this diagnosis - just throw it out the window and think about how to learn to live with and comfort yourself. You can do this.

Best wishes.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:23 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was diagnosed ten years ago. It's hard for me to believe that (in a good way) --- so thanks for getting me thinking about it.

Here's my post about those earlier times.

AskMefi helped me get better. I mean that seriously. I started my account not long after I accepted my diagnosis and was working on the rebuild attempts. I think a good deal of my borderline personality sprung from really maladaptive parenting (sounds like you too?) and just lurking among people who did not grow up like that and Reading So Much for a decade helped me more than I can describe.

Be careful about the cultiness factor™ of DBT in my opinion. I feel that way about all the BTs, because one must keep in mind that behavioral modification is helpful and life-affirming but will not necessarily make the invisible mind feel better. That deep dark hole inside is just not ever going to be completely gone. As we get older, most of us shouldering this excruciating sensitivity will get better at soothing it.

The real secret to self-care I found was to be worrying less and less inside about what "normal" people thought of my personality while refraining from lashing out at them on the outside (there's your behavior modification piece.) I am actually still super dramatic in my imaginative world and I have crazy adventures in there which amuse me and no one else. I am a middle class mom and not the hard-partying charity case of yore, but I definitely still do not fit society. I gave up on it (a time of grieving/jealousy was involved and still occasionally flares) because it does not matter. At thirty-two, I have finally figured out how to "do me" without the destructive aspect. You can get there.

PM me if you want to talk about any details. The fact that you are exercising and seeking supportive care is a great thing --- just keep it up.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 at 10:22 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks a lot for all of your suggestions and insights so far. It is nice to hear that at least some people do ok when they get a bit older.

I already do some of the suggestions (I have a cat, daylight lamp and am on iron and vit D supplements), but will try some of the others (meditation, travel, thyroid, talk to psychologist, actually practice DBT more)

I haven't been treated for trauma as such, we've discussed it in passing. I know they considered CPTSD diagnosis but I am guessing went with the BPD diagnosis to allow me to do DBT. I don't really want to spend time going over trauma etc, I have a reasonable understanding of why what happened happened and thinking/ talking about it on a regular basis in therapy seems painful and unnecessary. The therapy I attend is a follow on from DBT, we go through situations from the last week/ month and look at where I could have used more DBT skills or acted more effectively. It does improve the way I act, but yes as dissolvedgirl22 said it doesn't always stop things being very painful. Yes I have talked to my therapist about all this.

Thanks again.
posted by Lucy_32 at 8:03 AM on February 19, 2017

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